The death of Hugh 'The Great' O'Neill on 20th July 1616 in Rome is the final record entered into the Annals of the Four Masters. After a string of victories against Crown Forces during the Nine Years War, O'Neill was to meet with defeat just outside of Kinsale in Co Cork on the Christmas Eve of 1601. What followed was a lenient but untenable peace settlement brokered at Mellifont in 1603 which led in 1607 to what became known as the 'Flight Of The Earls'.
The 1604 Treaty of London which made a peace between Spain and England would frustrate Hugh O'Neill's attempts to return to Ireland. He petitioned Philip III of Spain until his dying day after nine years in Roman exile. His death on 20th July 1616 was indeed the end of an era.
Now - obviously the Easter Rising of 1916 was rightfully the most prominent national commemoration of 2016 and Claíomh's Claidheamh Soluis project proudly participated in a great many marches, re-enactments, media, television and educational events to mark this most important of Irish twentieth century historical events. We were however to be somewhat disappointed by a lack of community commemorations - particularly south of the border - regarding Hugh O'Neill asides a few, albeit excellent, academic conferences. Undeterred Will O'Shea and myself decided in his 4th centenary year to commemorate Hugh O'Neill in a meaningful way on the exact date of his death.
|The Dungannon wreath at the 2016 Rose Festival with period artefacts including a matchlock musket, an Irish Gaelic targe and a powder horn|
|Hill of the O'Neill, Dungannon - these remains post date O'Neill's original castle|
|Nine Years War depiction at the Hill of the O'Neill and Ranfurly House Arts & Visitor Centre|
|Nev and Eoghan provide a 1916 guard of honour to our 1616 commemorative wreath|
|Will and Dave at the Rose Festival which was organised by Dublin City Council|
|Will with Claidheamh Soluis [L-R] Niamh Ní Ruairc, Darren Travers, Nev Swift, Brí Ní hUaine and Eoghan Long|
|At the door of San Pietro in Montario|
|The tombs of Hugh O'Neill, Baron Dungannon (son of the Great O'Neill) and Rory O'Donnell Earl of Tirconnell|
|The wreath finally makes it from Dungannon to O'Neill's resting place in Rome|
|The O'Neill arms|
|The marble floor of San Pietro in Montario|
|Red Hugh and Rory O'Donnell of Tirconnell were Hugh O'Neill's confederates during the Nine Years War|
|The resting place of Hugh O'Neill|
|Our wreath in the foreground with the Irish Embassy wreath in the background|
|A cup of tea in heat - makes sense somehow!|
|L-R: Fr Mícheál MacCraith, Sarah Cooney and Will O'Shea|
|L-R: Fr Mícheál MacCraith, Dave Swift, Sarah Cooney and Ambassador Bobby McDonagh|
|Villa Spada: the Irish Embassy in Rome|
|Where O'Neill lived in Rome - now a hotel|
|Outside Hotel Columbus/O'Neill's Apartment|
|In the footsteps of O'Neill|
|The building where O'Neill actually passed away in July 1616|
In concluding this short summary I would point out that neither Will nor myself are genealogically related to the O'Neill tuatha - well, at least not in the last couple of hundred years... we are simply Irish people who wish to remember with dignity one of Ireland's most historically and nationally important Gaelic leaders. Learned folk will continue to debate Hugh O'Neill for as long as there is time left to us as a species. May the debates continue until the next centenary and beyond.
Dave Swift, BÁC, Nollaig 2016
|Dave Swift at the 'Claregalway Shield' event in Co Galway, October 2016|
|Hugh O'Neill: The O'Neill and Earl of Tyrone c. 1550 - 1616|
For more information on the interred Irish at San Pietro please click here to read a fascinating History Ireland article by Elizabeth FitzPatrick
Royal Irish Academy seminar audio recordings featuring Professor Nicholas Canny, Dr Ruth Canning, Dr Marc Caball, Dr Hiram Morgan and Professor Ciaran Brady